Environment issues are top of mind for many people and as local government voting papers are expected in the mail this week Tamahere Forum canvassed the views of election candidates.
Waikato District Council Tamahere Ward councillor Aksel Bech has been re-elected unopposed but his views were sought as the person working locally for Tamahere.
This is what we asked Cr Bech:
Collectively, we have done so little for so long to address rising carbon emissions in the atmosphere that what was once called ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ is now considered a climate crisis. Governments around the world and councils around the country are declaring a “climate (and ecological) emergency” and devising action steps to tackle it.
What action(s) will you champion to address the issues of sustainability and the environment?
The following is Cr Bech’s response:
I agree with your opening statement – though I might have said we have done “too little” rather than “so little” – and that we now must respond with urgency to a whole range of climate change issues.
As a father of three school-age children and being in a governance role at Council, I am extremely conscious of the leadership role WDC must take in this space – for my children, your children and our collective future on this planet.
In a few short years we as a family have gone from proudly filling our recycling bin rather than rubbish bag to now realising that this in itself actually represents a failure to minimise our use of packaging and our consumption generally … and that the plastic so carefully sorted and put in the recycling bin isn’t actually going anywhere but just piling up at refuse stations as councils around NZ and the world try to figure out what to do with it.
The Global Commission on Adaptation (www.gca.org) in their recent report stated that the greatest obstacle to actions on climate matters is not money but a lack of “political leadership that shakes people out of their collective slumber” – I am determined that will not be the legacy of WDC.
On a positive note, WDC already has significant work underway in many areas addressing this; these include a Solid Waste review for rubbish and recycling, responding to effects of rising sea levels on our coastal communities of Port Waikato and Raglan and mitigating the impacts of more frequent and more severe rain events and consequent flooding – particularly in our river communities that live along the banks of the Waikato River.
With Cr Lisa Thomson I am also reviewing the government’s Product Stewardship proposal currently – another important initiative in the packaging/waste space.
So as a Council, we have a number of significant initiatives underway but I am conscious that Greta Thunberg’s comments to the US Senate last week might equally be directed at us: “You are not trying hard enough. Sorry.”
There is therefore the need I believe to pull these various work streams already underway at WDC in to a more cohesive and complete climate change response strategy – to increase the urgency and ensure we are acting in a more strategic rather than ad hoc way.
“Stronger buildings, more resilient infrastructure, and dedicated infrastructure like dikes and pumping stations can protect people and economies and reduce the likelihood of a climate hazard becoming a climate disaster,” a new report by the International Federation of Red Cross says; these are practical things we can work on locally at the district and regional level. And must.
The underlying drivers of increasing emissions and other activities that exacerbate temperature rise will additionally need national and global political co-operation and agreement – but must also happen.
I am championing this approach with my fellow elected members of Council and favour that to the path of declaring a “climate emergency”; my personal view is that declaring an emergency could be another feel-good excuse not to do anything. I am sure it reads well in the paper to be the Councillor that proposed the declaring of a climate emergency … but what does that mean? What actually gets done as a result, and by whom?
I favour the old “think globally, act locally” adage – so let’s stop arguing about what is causing climate change but rather accept it is here and has profound effects on our ability to sustain life in the way we were used to. And therefore let us with urgency get on with the things we know we can do that will help.
The responses to the Forum’s questions from candidates standing for the Waikato Regional Council are here.
The responses to the Forum’s questions from candidates standing for Waikato District Council mayor are here.